Women surge, aim for NCAA Tourney
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Women surge, aim for NCAA Tourney

After downing Denver 79-33 and Omaha 70-55 in commanding fashion, the Coyote women turn their focus to Oral Roberts.

The Golden Eagles are the only team in the Summit League that have managed to best USD so far this season. The 56-60 lost on Jan. 6 is the only loss on the Coyotes’ otherwise perfect conference record.

Coyote senior center Margaret McCloud feels the first game was a jolt for USD. The Coyotes are now a more seasoned and prepared team and won’t fall victim to the Golden Eagles once again, she said.

“I think road trips are always hard,” McCloud said. “The game against Oral Roberts was a wake up call defensively. We’re a lot more prepared for this game.”

McCloud is averaging 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds for the Coyotes, while shooting nearly 61 percent from the field. She’s been the front court anchor, starting all 24 of USD’s games this year.

The players have grown into their individual roles, where each Coyote knows her place. McCloud knows that in the front court her role is to pull down boards.

“Coach Williams always talks about how everyone has a role on the team,” McCloud said. “I know my role is rebounding and always focusing on being there to get the ball.”

The defensive mindset the Coyotes have been working toward all year was on full display in the Denver game. USD limited the Pioneers to just 33 points and no Denver players were in double digits for scoring.

Since the Oral Roberts loss, the Coyotes defense has drastically improved, holding opponents to 60 points and under in six of their last nine games.

As the Coyotes defensive has improved, their goal has stayed the same: a NCAA Tournament berth.

Currently sitting at No. 1 in the Summit League, winning the end of the year tournament would give the Coyotes an automatic bid. Despite the Coyotes’ strong play as of late, they remain grounded focusing on each challenge ahead.

“That’s [NCAA Tournament] always the goal. Right now we’re taking it one game at a time,” McCloud said. “NCAA’s is everyone’s dream. That’s what everyone plays for, but right now we have to take it one game at a time.”

The Coyotes made the tournament two years ago, where they fell in the first round to eventual Final Four team Stanford.

Currently at 19-5, USD will attempt to best their 26-8 mark of a year ago that saw them miss out on a potential tournament berth with a loss to SDSU in the Summit League Tournament final.

The Coyotes will be back in Vermillion this Saturday to take on Oral Roberts in the DakotaDome. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.